IonField Systems manufacture barrier discharge plasma treatment systems to recover pin tools, disposable pipette tips and microtitre plates...

TalaveraScience is the Senior Sales Consultancy for IonField Systems throughout Europe.

IonField Systems have pioneered the use of atmospheric (cold) plasma as a treatment for removing remaining surface carryover from pipette tips, pin tools and microtitre plates (microplates). The process generates highly reactive oxygen species in the plasma which react with the organic material on the surface of the pipette tip or on the surface of the well in the microplates. This allows the multiple reuse of these consumables delivering large reductions in consumables expenditure, handling of biohazardous waste and landfill. A reduction of microplate consumable costs also allows the purchase of the best plates for the study rather then having to make compromises knowing that they can be used many times.

Ion Field Systems calls their approach R2 (Recover and Reuse).

In most high-throughput liquid handling system equipped laboratories, it is possible for the systems to pay for themselves within a single fiscal year, in some cases, many times over.

If you should like to spend less on consumables and solvents, reduce your laboratory waste, improve your pin tool cleaning effectiveness or simply want to learn more about IonField Systems products please read on for more information including examples of the use of the IonField Systems patented plasma cleaning technologies; R2...

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The IonField Systems PlasmaKnife™

The inception of the IonField Systems PlasmaKnife

The IonField Systems PlasmaKnife was developed in collaboration with the NCATS/NIH group who identified a need to control the serious problems generated for them by single use microplate waste. Two successful SBIR grants (phase 1 and 2) were used successfully to demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach and to create the commercial product which can recover not just standard microplates, but also optical or quartz high content plates, and speciality plates.

Extensive tests have been performed confirming that PlasmaKnife is highly effective renewing 1536 HTS screening plates, as well as clear bottom optical plates, acoustic source plates and most others. These plates have all shown results that are indistinguishable from new after cleaning. Most other less commonly used plates have been tested and show similar exceptional cleaning. Please contact us to inquire how PlasmaKnife has performed on your plate types.

How The IonField Systems PlasmaKnife works

The PlasmaKnife System has two components and these are:

  1. the Rinse Module (below left) which uses a high-pressure rinse followed by centrifuging remove any assay material in the wells (a typical reduction is ca 10,000 time);
  2. the Plasma Module (interior shown below right) where the microplate is plasma treated for ca 30 seconds (depending on the assay). See below for more detail.

During plasma treatment, any remaining organic material is removed, a like-new surface is restored and the microplates are ready for immediate reuse. Most microplates can be recycled through the PlasmaKnife process 50 to 100 times before their disposal.

IonField Systems PlasmaKnife Wash Station
IonField Systems PlasmaKnide interior of the Plasma Station

IonField PlasmaKnife Processing Time

Currently, allowing for the robotic transit time and the data processing of sensor data, the overall system will produce a renewed microplate approximately every 45 seconds for most assays and microplates.

Specialty microplates may require more time as they may need very gentle processing with lower rinse pressures, slower centrifuge spin speeds and different air flow rates in the plasma.

Those of you who are running cell assays are encouraged to contact us to hear about for our latest research regarding the importance of microplate brand selection on cell assays results.

System Integration

The IonField Systems PlasmaKnife was designed and engineered for optimum ease of use including system integration! The Ionfield Systems Engineering Staff will work with your current system integrator to ensure a smooth integration into existing or new laboratory systems. Both of the PlasmaKnife stations are configured as a network node providing real-time status and estimated time for completion of the current process on request.

Error conditions and recovery options are provided for on-the-fly correction and rescheduling, if supported by the scheduling software for your system. The PlasmaKnife can control many of the common pick and place robotic automation products used when in standalone mode. PlasmaKnife software will optionally keep a history of each microplate’s use and monitors system sensor data for end of life indicators.

Assay Analytics for Better Data

Are you interested in how to reduce the data variation on your assays by 60-75%? If so, please read on...

If you use PlasmaKnife to clean your microplates it then becomes possible, using Assay Analytics, to analyse the performance of each well on the plate. The image below shows 3 brands of 1536 formatted microplates running an identical cell assay in each well with no compounds added with CellTiter-Glo® readout.

The data demonstrates a significant variation in cell growth between the different brands of microplates responses. This variation exists between microplates of the same polymer and between types of polymers: two plates are polystyrene and one is a cyclic olefin copolymer.

Analysing well surfaces using Time Of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (TOF-SIMS) shows each brand has a unique blend of surface contaminates either from the polymer production or the moulding of the plate. The TOF-SIMS results show that every spot analysed has different concentrations of contaminates, surfaces are inconsistent from well to well affecting each brand of plate’s statistical performance, increasing the assay standard deviation (SD).

3 Brands of 1536 microplate with indentical cell assays using CellTiter-Glo

Learning Algorithm Process

Comparing the two Brand 1 plates individual wells by position we found 74% of the well pairs reported results within ½SD. An SD value of 1.15 is normally associated with 75% confidence limits. This indicates a 57% reduction in SDs comparing well position to whole plate statistics. The learning algorithm used is:

  1. plates are initially analysed by measuring plate to plate differences specific to the assay, uniformity and analytical measurement technology employed;
  2. individual well position results are statistically evaluated;
  3. plate specific matrices are generated of the average and the SD (or an approximation of the SD) for each well;
  4. each well is multiplied by a factor to place its average or other feature to a specific location on the graph (in the example shown below, the location is the three highest count peaks which aligns the high value sections of the curves.

This cell assay showed a SD reduction of 60% using adjusted Brand 1 data generated by the Learning Algorithm. Learning examples for this assay were N=2 (N being the number of PlasmaKnife cleaning cycles). As N has increased in other assays (to N=10 or higher), the SD dropped further to approach a 75% reduction.

Comparing CellTiter-Glo response of wells before and after Assay Analytics

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The IonField Systems TipCharger Family

About Ionfield Systems TipCharger

The IonField Systems TipCharger family are devices that generate a self-contained, low-temperature, atmospheric plasma for cleaning pipette tips used in automated life science laboratories. The patented technology uses a dielectric barrier discharge (or gap plasma) that is generated in small, well-like cavities and conforms to a standard SBS footprint. The devices are passive in that plasma generation is triggered via the insertion of the pipette tips into the cleaning station, making it easy to install and integrate with most automated liquid handlers. The result is the ionization and molecular breakdown of biological and organic contaminants on both the exterior and interior surfaces of the tips. Unlike traditional solvent-based pipette tip wash methods, plasma as a state of matter (neither a gas nor a liquid) generates no solid or liquid waste and only small amounts of gaseous by-products. Plasma cleaning does not simply dilute contaminants, but removes them at a molecular level, allowing laboratories to reuse polypropylene tips and reduce the number of tip boxes needed.

The programming and methods development is easy; there are never any software drivers to update. Simply lower the pin tool into the TipCharger and the TipCharger begins to clean and remains on for the time you program your pin tools to be in the plasma!

IonField Systems TipCharger 8

The picture above depicts a TipCharger 8 Cleaning Station in action. Our cleaning station fits onto your existing SBS standard microplate holders and no extra hardware is required.

IonField Systems TipCharger operating without cover showing plasma on

The picture above is of a TipCharger 96 cleaning station with the cover removed whilst in operation demonstrating the glow emitted by the plasma. The LED light and optical sensor can be seen at the bottom of the cleaning station picture.

IonField Systems TC 384 on the deck of a Beckman FX

The picture above depicts an IonField Systems TipCharger 384 on the deck of a Beckman FX HLS.

Pipetting Accuracy Tests...

IonField Systems TC 96 carryover test results
  • Customers report the same pipetting accuracy with treated tips;
    • TipCharger causes no change in surface wetting properties;
  • Pipetting accuracy unaffected throughout the 200 TipCharger plasma cleaning cycles;
  • Resultant CVs are very similar to those obtained with new pipette tips over the entire test (7.6% CV).
IonField Systems TC 384 carryover test results
  • Pipetting accuracy is maintained at similar CVs versus new tips, typically 2.3%;
  • CVs are unaffected throughout 50 to 125 TipCharger plasma cleaning cycles;
  • Some differences may be found between brands of tips.

Diagnostic DNA Assay...

DNA Carryover Tests of various pipette cleaning methods including TipCharger

The graph depicted to the right shows a standard dilution curve of DNA (labelled) and the same curve run after performing 3 different pipette tip cleaning methods including a rinse (yellow), TipCharger plasma treatment (turquoise) and rinse and plasma treatment (purple).

The test shows exceptional cleaning achieved with both plasma treatment methods which are more effective than 13 to 14 cycles with any other available cleaning method.

The PCR cycler was set for 50 cycles and the TipCharger plasma treatment was run for 30 seconds.

Pipette Tip Life...

One frequently asked question is about how many TipCharger plasma treatments can a tip potentiallyhave before it cannot be used. Typically, the answer to this really depends on the type of pipette tip being cleaned. As a rule of thumb we provide the following guidelines:

The picture directly below shows standard pipette tips after a series of cycles of TipCharger plasma treatments. These are, from left to right; 10 times, 20 times, 30 times, 40 times and 50 times. At 50 times, the surface of the pipette tip is starting to look pitted. However, the pipetting accuracy of these tips was unaffected.

  • Standard Tips, 10 to 20 uses or up to 10 minutes of plasma exposure;
  • Maximum Recovery Tips, 10 times the standard tips exposure;
  • Conductive Tips, about half of that as for standard tips;
  • Pin Tools, (see below) no degradation occurs and they can be cleaned indefinitely.
Pipette tips after various different number of treatment time with Ion Field Systems TipCharger

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IonField TipCharger 1536 for Pin Tools

IonField Systems TipCharger 1536 for pin tools is the latest member of the TipCharger family.

IonField Systems' New Aggressive Multi-Cycle Plasma Cleaning for Pin Tools...

IonField Systems patented plasma cleaning technology has been used for more than a decade in pharmaceutical, biotech and life science laboratories to clean pipette tips for extended reuse. Now IonField Systems have applied the fast and environmentally friendly technology to 384 and 1536 pin tools.

In evaluation tests the TipCharger 1536 has proven time and time again to quickly and reliably surpass all other methods when it comes to pin tool cleaning as is demonstrated below.

IonField Systems TipCharger 1536 for pin tools Performance Evaluations

The TipCharger 1536 can be used in a variety of applications. We have tested pin tools using the following assay types:

  • High Throughput Screening (HTS);
  • Kinetic Cell Assays, GPCRs;
  • Cell Assay Inoculation.
IonField Systems TipCharger 1536 for pin tools cleaning station
IonField Systems TipCharger 1536 for pin tools results

Conclusions of the presented evaluation

Protocols of the test are described on the right; the conclusion of the study were:

  • TipCharger did remove accumulated buildup resulting in clean pins;
    • Volumetric performance was returned to 'new' behaviour;
  • TipCharger performed comparably with other cleaning methods;
    • TipCharger was able to clean most compounds effectively;
    • Only 1 to 3 new carryover compounds were introduced;
    • 3 carryover compounds not cleaned by other methods were removed by TipCharger
  • A slight improvement in cycle time using TipCharger
    • ~10 to 20 second cleaning cycle improvement

Example Cleaning Method Definitions


  1. 3 dips in DMSO
  2. 3 dips in isopropanol
  3. Blot dry


  1. 3 dips DMSO
  2. 3 dips water
  3. Blot dry
  4. 3 dips isopropanol
  5. Blot dry


  1. 3 dips water
  2. 40 seconds in TipCharger (varies by assay)


  1. 3 dips DMSO
  2. 3 dips isopropanol
  3. 40 seconds in TipCharger (varies by assay)
IonField Systems TipCharger 1536 for pin tools on a Hamamatsu LHS deck

IonField Systems TipCharger 1536 Ease of Installation

IonField Systems' products are passive devices and do not require a software interface. This means there is no time wasted integrating it to your LHS; a single day installation is typical. Programming and methods development is simple. There are never any software drivers to update!

Simply lower the pin tool into the TipCharger and TipCharger starts to clean and remains on for the time you program your pin tools to be in the plasma!

The TC 1536/384 cleaning station fits onto your existing SBS standard microplate holders so no extra hardware is required. See above for an example of TipCharger 1536 on a Hamamatsu.

IonField Systems TipCharger 1536 Specifications

  • 100 to 220 VAC, 18 watts in standby and is typically 350 watts while generating plasma;
  • A non-thermal dielectric barrier discharge plasma is the cleaning agent;
  • All waste products from the plasma cleaning process are gases which are collected, filtered through activated charcoal and should be vented;
  • The IonField Systems TipCharger is CE Marked;
  • The IonField Systems Cleaning Station is designed to fit into a standard SBS microplate holder;
  • The IonField Systems Cleaning Station is connected to the System Controller by 2 metre connectors for power, sensors, and vacuum.

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IonField Systems Accessories

IonField Systems offer a variety of accessories including the items discussed here.

IonField Systems Ultrasonic Pre-Clean Station

IonField Systems Ultrasonic Pre-Clean Station™

The IonField Systems Ultrasonic Pre-Clean Station is designed for heavy lipid-based solutions and macromolecules that cling to pipette tips, the Ultrasonic Pre-Clean Station uses ultrasound waves generated in a water bath to effectively remove all traces of large sticky molecules from the pipette tips before they are presented to the TipCharger.

This is especially useful for plant-based assays that typically have a residue buildup on the tips that can often be seen with the naked eye.

The Ultrasonic Pre-Clean Station, like TipCharger, is a passive device. It is turned on automatically when the tips are dipped into the bath and off when they are removed. No programming is required.

IonField Systems Ion Illuminator™

The IonField Systems Ion Illuminator is a mininature USB spectrophotometer which is used to measure the emission spectrum of the generated plasma a single well at a time and is available as a Quality Control tool to ensure that the TipChargers are functioning optimally by comparing the spectra to a standard.

The Ion Illuminator consists of the following components:

  1. a miniature spectrometer, the USB powered spectrophotometer measures the light absorbed by the fibre optic cable and transmits the data to a PC via the USB cable (USB 2.0);
  2. a metal shielded Fibre Optics Cable (3’/90 cm) which attaches to the spectrophotometer and will take accurate readings of plasma generation when fitted with an IonField Tip Adapter;
  3. a USB-A to USB-B cable (USB 2.0 standard) to connect the spectrophotometer to a customer-provided Windows PC;
  4. IonField Tip Adapters in 8, 96, or 384 style attach to the spectrophotometer to locate the fibre optic tip onto the individual TipCharger wells to collect data;
  5. IonField Ion Illuminator Software Installer.
Typical spectrum from the IonField Systems Ion Illuminator
IonField Systems Ion Illuminator
The IonField Systems TipCharger Pipette Cleaning Family